Yazidi rituals

Like most religions, life is punctuated with rituals. Here is a sample of the rituals Yazidis.

Yazidi rituals

They follow several Yazidi rituals similar to other religions. They pray, fast, observe holy days and make pilgrimages.

However, no Yezidi is required to pray, nor are there fixed times for collective or individual prayer. The most religious pray at three fixed times of the day; sunrise, morning and sunset. When they pray, they must first wash their hands and face, cross their arms over their bodies, and raise their faces to the sun. There are no rote prayers to say. All prayers are addressed to Tawsi Melek or Shams (the sun). Most prayers are performed standing and end by kissing the hem of their garment or an east-facing wall.

Fasting is usually only practiced for three days each December. Again, this is not a requirement but something that more religious people do. It is done in memory of Sultan Ezi. Those from the upper levels of the religious and social strata fast for 40 days during the summer and during the winter.

The Yezidi holy day is Wednesday. Just like the holy days of other religions, no work should be done on the holy day. Those close enough to visit a shrine would do so on this day. However, there is no formal obligation to meet other members of the community or to have a collective worship. Each Yezidi must spend the day as he wishes. Other holy days require pilgrimages, but since everyone comes with their own set of rituals and memories, we'll cover them later in their own section.

Yazidi Rituals of Passage

There are six Yazidi rites of passage that all men and most women will go through. Yazidi rituals are haircut, baptism, circumcision, brother (or sister) from afterlife, marriage and funeral.

First of the Yazidi Rituals, the haircut

Yazidi boys are not allowed to have their hair cut before the age of six months to one year. The tradition is that the "godfather" (brother from beyond) of the child cuts off part of the forelock and keeps it. Gifts are given to the boy's family and he is officially considered part of Yazidi society.

Yazidi rituals and baptism

Girls must wait to join society until they can be baptized. This is usually done when they are very young, but can be done at any time in a person's life. The child (male or female) is baptized in the waters of the baptistery of Lalish (the holiest shrine of the Yezidi).

The only people present for the baptism are the holy man, the child and the parents of the child. The baptism is more than just an entry into society, it also indicates that the child is now a servant of Sultan Ezi. This rite of passage is most followed by those who live near Lalish in northern Iraq. However, some who live abroad have started to have holy water sent to them. Then their child can be baptized without having to make the trip “home”.

Yazidi rituals and circumcision

The males are circumcised twenty days after their baptism. Parents choose a kefir for this occasion. Kefir is usually chosen from a caste that the child is not allowed to marry because the kefir is considered a brother to the child. Often the kefir is someone outside of the Yazidi religion. Kurdish Muslims are often chosen to be kefir to strengthen ties with outside communities.

Some Yazidis living outside Iraq may not perform this rite until the person dies. They believe that everything Yazidi uncircumcised is an infidel and will be punished on the Day of Judgment. If their adopted culture disapproves of circumcision, they may wait until the end of the person's life to perform the rite.

Yazidi rituals, the brothers from beyond

Brothers from beyond are chosen over a lifetime. Every Yezidi must have two to help and protect them as they navigate the rites of life. Men can only choose from the two upper classes of society, while women are free to choose whichever they want. However, if a woman marries, then her husband's brother or sister will become her brother (or sister) from beyond.

Arranged marriages

Most marriages take place young (15-16 years old) and are arranged by the couple's fathers. As with most Middle Eastern weddings, there is a bride price paid by the groom's family and the wedding must be performed by a holy man. The bride undergoes the application of henna, is dressed in red and is escorted from her family home to that of her fiancé.

 There is usually a slaughtered sheep as a sacrifice, followed by a feast and a dance. Marriage is only permitted within the Yazidi community, but even that is limited by caste and social status. Weddings can take place at any time of the year, except during the holy month of April.

Yazidi death rituals

A burial does not mean the passage of a soul, but only the end of its time in this body. The soul will transmigrate to a new body after undergoing its Day of Judgment and will have no memory of its previous life. The corpse is washed, dressed in a white shroud and placed in a sarcophagus. Soil from Sheik Adi's shrine is placed in the mouth and the body is buried with the head facing east.

After the funeral, a clairvoyant is asked by the family to determine the fate of the deceased. If the soul is seen to have entered as a Yezidi, the family celebrates with a feast. If, however, it turns out that it is housed in another living being, the family offers sacrifices to "redeem" its soul. 

For a week after that, the brother from beyond visits the family. Her job is to console, sing the praises of Tawsi Melek and share the happy memories of the deceased. After four days, an ox is sacrificed on the grave and its meat is given to passers-by as alms.